What is Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL)?

The Problem

Generally, there are two ways youth gain access to tobacco — social sources (e.g., family and friends) and retail sources (e.g., convenience or grocery stores. Since it is nearly impossible to monitor the social sources, action must be taken to control illegal sales in the retail environment.

The Facts

  • 99.6% of convenience stores sell tobacco.
  • 67% of teens shop at convenience stores.
  • 29% of teens usually buy their cigarettes at a convenience store or gas station.
  • 60% of teens who smoke say it’s easy to buy cigarettes.
  • In 2008 average sales of cigarettes per store were $476,244.

What can be done?

It has been illegal to sell tobacco to minors for over 100 years, yet California’s youth are continually able to purchase this deadly product. Thus, to address this problem, advocates across the state are taking action by passing local TRL ordinances, decreasing youth access to tobacco in their communities. TRL can also also be expanded to include other point-of-sale issues such as minimum pack size, density and school-zone limits, flavor restrictions, and bans on tobacco look-alike products. Click here for a link to Change Lab for ordinance language.

How does TRL work?

A TRL ordinance requires store owners to purchase an annual permit in order to sell any tobacco product. The permit fee covers the cost for administration of the license and, more importantly, the enforcement (enforcement = merchant/community education and several “youth purchase” stings per year). If a store owner or clerks is caught in violation of the ordinance, the store owner could be fined or the license could potentially be suspended or revoked.

Why should I fight for my City Council to adopt a Tobacco Retail license?

  • To lower youth smoking rates
  • To reduce youth access to tobacco
  • To create a safer and healthier environment
  • To educate the community on the issue of illegal tobacco sales to minors
  • To stand up to the Tobacco Industry

TRL Success – Contra Costa County Case Study

Illegal sales before TRL

  • Illegal sales rate = 37%

Strong TRL policy was adopted

  • Youth Purchase Survey (YPS) was critical tactic
  • Youth presented YPS results

Illegal sales after TRL

  • Illegal sales rate = 7%